Environmental Science and Pollution Research

, Volume 20, Issue 9, pp 6210–6221 | Cite as

Cadmium (Cd2+) removal by nano zerovalent iron: surface analysis, effects of solution chemistry and surface complexation modeling

  • Hardiljeet K. Boparai
  • Meera Joseph
  • Denis M. O’Carroll
Research Article


Nano zerovalent iron (nZVI) is an effective remediant for removing various organic and inorganic pollutants from contaminated water sources. Batch experiments were conducted to characterize the nZVI surface and to investigate the effects of various solution properties such as pH, initial cadmium concentration, sorbent dosage, ionic strength, and competitive ions on cadmium removal by nZVI. Energy-dispersive X-ray and X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy results confirmed removal of Cd2+ ions by nZVI through adsorption. Cd2+ adsorption decreased in the presence of competitive cations in the order: Zn2+ > Co2+ > Mg2+ > Mn2+ = Cu2+ > Ca2+ > Na2+ = K+. Higher concentrations of Cl significantly decreased the adsorption. Cadmium removal increased with solution pH and reached a maximum at pH 8.0. The effects of various solution properties indicated Cd2+ adsorption on nZVI to be a chemisorption (inner-sphere complexation) process. The three surface complexation models (diffuse layer model, constant capacitance model, and triple layer model) fitted well to the adsorption edge experimental data indicating the formation of nZVI–Cd bidentate inner-sphere surface complexes. Our results suggest that nZVI can be effectively used for the removal of cadmium from contaminated water sources with varying chemical conditions.


Cadmium Adsorption Nano zerovalent iron pH Competitive cations Ionic strength Surface complexation modeling 



This research was supported by the EJLB foundation, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) of Canada, and Canadian Foundation for Innovation Grant. We would like to thank Mark Biesinger, Qing Mu, and Ross Davison for the XPS and SEM/EDX analysis as well as Clare Robinson for her assistance with the speciation modelling.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hardiljeet K. Boparai
    • 1
  • Meera Joseph
    • 1
  • Denis M. O’Carroll
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Faculty of EngineeringThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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